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How Do You Say Goodbye? A tribute to my grandmother who lived her life with kindness and a never ending supply of hugs. Her legacy of love will live on through us all.

How Do You Say Goodbye?

How Do You Say Goodbye? A tribute to my grandmother who lived her life with kindness and a never ending supply of hugs. Her legacy of love will live on through us all.

You think you know what it means to watch someone waste away. You’ve seen it on television. You’ve read about it in books. But until you see it, with your own eyes – watch it happen to someone you love – you realize you had no idea. The emotional impact is unfathomable. You want to cry. Yet in the pit of your stomach you know you should be strong. So you turn your head. You hide your eyes. You don’t want show up unless you have to.

When I walked into her room, she was asleep. A small teddy bear holding a heart rested on her chest. Her face was sunken. Her skin like glass. The damp cloth on her forehead hid the fact that all her hair was gone now. Yet at the same time somehow made her seem more substantial. There was oxygen in her nose. And from time to time she’d make a terrifying sound as she breathed through her mouth.

She woke up a short time later. Almost as if she was frightened back into her dying body. She begged for water. Water she couldn’t have for fear it’d end up in her lungs. She couldn’t swallow. So we made do with a sponge dipped into a cup of that life giving fluid.

There were no IV’s. There were no life saving measures. Instead there was pain and panic. It was if she knew there were people with her, but she saw through them. From time to time she’d panic, her feeble heart racing. Buying it’s time to hang on just a little while longer. Yet the panic left her terrified she was choking. Swearing to us she couldn’t breathe.

There was another dose of morphine.


When I was little my Meemaw, as she was known to all her grandchildren, took care of me. She always gave me as much paper and scotch tape as I’d like. And even after I cut my finger on her sewing scissors, she let those scissors find their way back into my hands again.

I drew pictures and cut paper. I built cities that expanded through an ever growing amount of Scotch tape so my Hot Wheels would have new places to go. Journeys to make and parking spots at two dimensional grocery stores.

I drew homes. And in those homes there were always closets. I created pretty dresses on hangers with crayons to fill them. Because with her, I always felt at home. She was home. She was a force of happiness and kindness that welcomed everyone throughout her life – including strangers.


As an adult, when you get the call, you go. It is not an easy thing. You want to run away. You want to be strong. You’re terrified to leave. It’s a mix of emotions that are at times overwhelming. Yet somehow, you find a way to make sure your loved ones know they’re loved in the end.

That was not my grandmother in that hospital bed. That was a shell of who she was. Her body gave in, and let go, a few short hours later.

So I drew her a house, a closet to take with her. And in that closet was a single hanger. On it, a pair of angel wings.

While her body is now for the earth, her spirit is for skies. Her legacy was, is and will always be love. Her spirit, living on always, through all of us blessed enough to know her.


  • Cyna

    March 18, 2019 at 12:49 pm

    Dear Rebecca,

    I’m so sorry for your and your family’s loss. This such a sad, yet beautifully and lovingly written post. Your grandmother must have been a very special lady. I hope the wonderful memories you have of her will bring you comfort and healing. Love to you and yours, xo

    1. Rebecca D. Dillon

      March 24, 2019 at 7:04 pm

      Thank you so much.

  • Renee R. Matschkal

    March 19, 2019 at 7:28 am

    Always heartbreaking when you lose someone you love… immortality… it’s carried on by all those who loved her. She is the new bright and shining star in the sky. God Bless you and yours and that you find comfort knowing that her spirit is now in a good place. She must have been a truly wonderful person… xoxo

    1. Rebecca D. Dillon

      March 24, 2019 at 7:05 pm

      Thank you for your kind words. Her funeral was a beautiful testament to a life well lived. It was wonderful to hear from so many who were positively affected by her daily kindness to others.

  • Deborah

    March 19, 2019 at 9:43 am

    I’ve watched loved ones waste away. It is hard, but would be so much harder if you weren’t there. I watched my Grandmother, Mother, Father-in-law, and Mother-in-law do this. I didn’t get to see my Grandfather. We lost him when my youngest daughter was three months old. I had two toddlers too. That was worse than not being there.

  • A Life Adjacent

    March 19, 2019 at 3:40 pm

    Rebecca, we are so very sorry for your loss. This is such a heart-warming and beautiful tribute to your grandmotherr. She was clearly a loving, positive force in your life. We hope you are surrounded by so much love and support during this time. Big hugs. Kim & Kyla xox

    1. Rebecca D. Dillon

      March 24, 2019 at 7:04 pm

      Thank you so much for your kind thoughts.

  • Ronda Bratton

    March 24, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    Rebecca, your story brings back so many fond memories of my Aunt Anne, I loved her dearly, her own daughter had died at three days old, so I was always going to her house in the country and the things you describe remind me so much of her. I think that’s where I got my love of all things animal and country. Unfortunately, when I was seven years old she committed suicide, my uncle cheated on her and, in her own words, she “just couldn’t live without him”. God how I wish she would have said to hell with him and took him for everything he had. we would still have her today. It was all so hard to go through, Even now, at the age of fifty-six, I still cry for her.

    1. Rebecca D. Dillon

      March 24, 2019 at 7:04 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m so sorry you lost your aunt. It’s a hard thing to grieve for the loss of someone especially when they were taken from the world too soon.

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